This weeks book review is House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess. The Emperor has died and it is time for a new Emperor to be selected. In the land of Etrusia the title is not inherited; in fact the person on the throne is sterilized to make sure the throne is not inherited. One member from each royal house must participate in the Trial to earn the right to lead the empire. This has a bit of a Hunger Games feel to me, except it is the privileged fighting it out.
The reader learns in the first few pages that usually the first born is called to the Trail but this time something strange has happened, younger members of each royal house have been called. The humans in the story don’t decide who goes to the Trial, the dragons hear the call and thus their riders are chosen. In this case we get a band of misfits, most of whom have reasons for not wanting to be in the spotlight, especially this spotlight.
The main cast of characters are:
Emilia – She is cursed with chaos magic and her family has been hiding this truth for years. In Etrusia only Orderly magic is allowed. Those born to Chaos are given a brutal death. Emilia must hide her Chaos magic or risk being put to death before the Trail is over. If she can win maybe she change the prejudice against people like here.
Lucian – He was raised to be a warrior but the toll of killing has become too much for him. All Lucian wants to do is join the Brotherhood (think priest in a monastery) and lock himself away from the constant wars to expand the empire.
Vespir – She is a servant to one of the Royal houses and is the dragon handler, who is responsible mostly for the dragon of the only child for the royal house Pentri. She is not related to the royal house so it is a mystery why a servant was called. But she must go in place of the daughter of the house or face certain death. At least if she competes she has a small chance to live.
Ajax – He is one of many illegitimate sons in his royal house, not to mention he is very young and does not know much of fighting in the Trial. Being a bastard in his house is a hard way to grow up and it has created a large chip on his shoulder.
Hyperia – She is the oldest of her house but she had to kill the person called in order to take her place at the Trial. Watch out for this one, she will do anything do become Empress.
Everyone chosen flies to the location where the priests will administer the challenges. There will be multiple challenges and at the end the Great Dragon will choose a winner. The participants are discouraged from killing their opponents during the trial. However, after a winner is declared the losers and their dragons will be Cut (killed). The Cut was a mechanism developed to keep the losers from challenging the winner and keep the peace within the empire.
Winner Takes All
In this book we see the 5 champions work their way through four challenges; The Hunt, The Game, The Race, and The Truth. The Trail is shrouded in mystery so our band of misfits do not really know what to expect. They just know that no emperor has ever been chosen if they did not win at least one challenge. As they do so the reader begins to learn about each character and I could not help but begin to cheer for my favorite. In reality, there were a couple of people I wanted to win but I did have a favorite. But I will keep that to myself since I don’t want to ruin the experience of discovering these interesting characters for anyone.
There are a few twists and turns to the story and at one point the whole group is working toward the same cause as a team. But we all know this cannot last. If only one person can win then eventually someone is going to do what they need to, not only to win but to live.
This was a fun book to read with magic, dragons, intrigue, and a mystery. At the end of the book the author leaves a hint that there will be more to come. I am looking forward to reading more about this world that the author has created.